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Efficient visual information sampling develops late in childhood

Jones, P.R.; Landin, L.; McLean, A.; Juni, M.Z.; Maloney, L.T.; Nardini, M.; Dekker, T.M.

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P.R. Jones

L. Landin

A. McLean

M.Z. Juni

L.T. Maloney

T.M. Dekker


It is often unclear which course of action gives the best outcome. We can reduce this uncertainty by gathering more information; but gathering information always comes at a cost. For example, a sports player waiting too long to judge a ball’s trajectory will run out of time to intercept it. Efficient samplers must therefore optimize a trade-off: when the costs of collecting further information exceed the expected benefits, they should stop sampling and start acting. In visually guided tasks, adults can make these trade-offs efficiently, correctly balancing any reductions in visuomotor uncertainty against cost factors associated with increased sampling. To investigate how this ability develops during childhood, we tested 6-11 year-olds, adolescents, and adults on a visual localization task in which the costs and benefits of sampling were formalized in a quantitative framework. This allowed us to compare participants to each other, and to an ideal observer who maximizes expected reward. Visual sampling became substantially more efficient between 6-11 years, converging onto adult performance in adolescence. Younger children systematically under-sampled information relative to the ideal observer and varied their sampling strategy more. Further analyses suggested that young children used a suboptimal decision rule that insufficiently accounted for the chance of task failure, in line with a late developing ability to compute with probabilities and costs. We therefore propose that late development of efficient information sampling, a crucial element of real-world decision-making under risk, may form an important component of sub-optimality in child perception, action, and decision-making.


Jones, P., Landin, L., McLean, A., Juni, M., Maloney, L., Nardini, M., & Dekker, T. (2019). Efficient visual information sampling develops late in childhood. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(7), 1138-1152.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 22, 2019
Online Publication Date Jul 1, 2019
Publication Date Jul 31, 2019
Deposit Date May 8, 2019
Publicly Available Date May 9, 2019
Journal Journal of Experimental Psychology: General
Print ISSN 0096-3445
Electronic ISSN 1939-2222
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 148
Issue 7
Pages 1138-1152


Accepted Journal Article (2.3 Mb)

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